Renoir's first American movie is quite impressive and if you viewed this thing without seeing the opening credits you'd swear it was made by someone like John Ford. The film takes place in the Georgia swamps where trapper Ben Ragan (Dana Andrews) gets lost in the swamp only to be rescued by fugitive Tom Keefer (Walter Brennan) who has been hiding there to avoid hanging. The two strike up a friendship but Ben must keep him secret while back at town all hell is breaking loose. I guess Fox respected the talent of Renoir enough to give him an all-star cast, something that not even John Ford would get at the studio. Sure, there are a few problems with this film but there's no denying it's technical beauty and the terrific cast makes it a must see. The cinematography is what really stands out here as the B&W footage is so beautiful that you can't help but get drawn into the atmosphere of this swampy land. A lot of the footage here was shot on location and you can't help but feel like the swamps is one of the main characters as you can just feel the dirtiness of the water and sense all the creatures living in it. There's some obvious back-projection but this doesn't take away from anything. As far as the cast goes we're in for a real treat. Andrews is very good in his role and Walter Huston is just as impressive as his father. Brennan gets top-billing but he's actually not in the film too much. There's some debate on his performance here but I thought it was a good one even if I didn't believe him in the role too much and I'm curious if it would have been better had Huston and Brennan switched roles. Ann Baxter, Virginia Gilmore, John Carradine, Joe Sawyer, Mary Howard, Ward Bond, Russell Simpson and Eugene Palette round out the supporting players and all them fill their roles nicely. Even if the story is lacking in parts, you can't take your eyes off the screen because this wonderful cast takes up every inch of film so you've constantly got something fun to see. I think the mystery around the killing Brennan was accused for is too easy to figure out but this too is just a minor point. Considering the cast and terrific cinematography, I'm somewhat surprised this film isn't better know. It's certainly not a masterpiece by any standard but there's enough here to make it worth viewing to any film buff.
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